Customer centricity and user friendliness are two of the most important requirements for modern IT services. IT service developers and operators are therefore putting emphasis in designing proper user interfaces (UIs) and in offering exceptional user experience (UX) to their users. It is well known that UI/UX design can make a big difference in engaging users with on-line services and in several cases in converting viewers to customers. Nowadays, enterprises are offered with a host of technologies, tools and methodologies for creating UI/UX elements that could set them apart from their competitors. Nevertheless, they need to use these methodologies and tools wisely and effectively. In this direction they could follow proven industry best practices for UI/UX development. The latter are particularly important for Small Medium Businesses (SMBs), which lack the equity capital needed to invest in world class UI designers and UX experts.
Any on-line product or service exposes many different aspects to its users. Prominent examples of such aspects include login processes, buying journeys, product comparisons, check-out processes and more. Ideally all these processes should be based on flawless and exceptional UI/UX elements. Nevertheless, in practice it’s quite difficult to cover all processes, especially in the case of services offered by SMBs, which typically operate on constrained budgets. It is therefore suggested that SMBs prioritize the implementation of UI/UX functionalities, with a view to covering the most important processes. In this direction, the 80-20 rule can be exploited i.e. SMBs must prioritize the 20% of the functionalities that are used 80% of the times.
A good and engaging user experience does not have to be complex. SMBs must emphasize simplicity in the presentation and the support of user journeys. UI/UX is primarily about ease of use rather than about impressing end-users. Hence, SMBs should emphasize seamless and simple operations rather than fancy, yet less functional UI/UX elements. Simplicity should be reflected on the structure of the content and the user’s navigation. The latter should allow users to reach their targets and accomplish their goals with the minimum possible number of clicks.
In an era where most end-users access on-line services via their smartphones or tablets, SMBs must implement a mobile first strategy for their UI/UX developments. Mobile computing is therefore driving the UI/UX design activities of SMBs. All UX/UI elements should be designed with the mobile user in-mind and should be tested on all popular mobile platforms such as iOS and Android.
Beyond the 80-20 rule, SMBs should consider their business objectives when prioritizing UI/UX developments. For example, revenue generating functionalities are likely to be prioritized over auxiliary functionalities. Likewise, objectives associated with increased customer loyalty could be pursued by on advanced UI/UX design.
UI/UX Experts can be employed in order to put relevant activities on track. Nevertheless, SMBs must also strive to compare alternative solutions by soliciting user feedback. To this end, they can leverage proven methodologies for comparing alternative UI/UX solutions such as A/B testing. The latter can provide insights in user preferences, as a means of complementing expert designs and opinions.
A/B testing is popular, yet not the only method for soliciting user feedback. SMBs had better employ other feedback collection modalities as well, such as user studies and focus groups. The latter shall be organized and exploited across the entire product or service development lifecycle.
The development of an excellent UX/UI should not compromise the visibility of the on-line service. Specifically, visuals, themes and animations that lead to poor SEO (Search Engine Optimization) performance should be avoided. Rather the UX/UI implementation shall include elements that boost SEO, such as links to/from high traffic web sites, as well as proper keywords in headers and the body text. Likewise, extensive use of graphics that do not contain text should be avoided. By and large, the UI/UX should be functional and still able to support a very high SEO performance.
An effective UI/UX solution should not only be functional, but it should contain fresh and relevant content as well. Hence, UI/UX design must provide the means for integrating relevant, dynamic and up-to-date content. In this direction, it should make provisions for the dynamic integration of blogs and social media content. Likewise, it should support the inclusion of attractive and factual content like customer’s testimonials and success stories.
Overall, UI/UX is a very important aspect of most desktop and mobile applications that are developed or operated by SMBs. An amazing user interface is a sound basis for engaging customers and can help an SMB build a competitive advantage. Understanding the needs of your target audience and of their preferences when accessing your services is a key prerequisite for a successful UI/UX design and implementation. However, SMBs had better follow the above-listed best practices as well, as a means of leveraging experience from successful implementations and of avoiding common pitfalls.
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